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Historiography of South African social work: challenging dominant discourses.

Smith, Linda


Linda Smith


The task of examining the origins and development of social work is fraught with competing narratives. In South Africa individualist, liberal, colonial, masculine and 'white' discourses prevail. The dialectical-historical perspective, rather than chronological 'progress', shows how socio-political and economic dynamics are formative of societal conditions and of social work, which in turn has a role in shaping these dynamics. The fiction of purely historical records of progress and freedom of choice is challenged, and hegemonic and counter-hegemonic discourses uncovered. Social workers are urged to be engaged with the full complexity of events emerging from the class and race-based antagonisms of South African society.


SMITH, L. 2014. Historiography of South African social work: challenging dominant discourses. Social work/Maatskaplike werk [online], 50(3), pages 305-331. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 30, 2014
Online Publication Date Jun 30, 2014
Publication Date Sep 30, 2014
Deposit Date May 26, 2017
Publicly Available Date May 26, 2017
Journal Social work/Maatskaplike werk
Print ISSN 0037-8054
Electronic ISSN 2312-7198
Publisher Stellenbosch University: Library and Information Service
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 50
Issue 3
Pages 305-331
Keywords Social work ; South Africa; Historiography; Development; Social relations; Social work practice
Public URL


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